The enemy within: Kosovo’s moral crusaders

Originally appeared on Kosovo 2.0, in honor of the fifth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence. Link here (available in English, Albanian and Serbian). 

Kosovo’s media have all talked about what happened during the launch of Kosovo 2.0’s Sex edition on December 14, 2012, ad nauseum. A similar scandal, on a smaller scale, happened four days before the seventh anniversary of Kosovo’s independence. On Valentine’s Day, the performance group Haveit took a photo featuring the four members (all women), kissing one another on Prishtina’s Mother Teresa Boulevard. In a direct reference to the persecution of Kosovo’s LGBT community, the caption to the photo read, “In this so-called “Day of Love,” this society still refuses and forbids same-sex love of reasons for ‘morality’. Let love prevail!!!”

Although hundreds of people “liked” the image on Facebook, a very loud and poisonous amount of people spewed hate in the direction of Haveit — some even posted death threats, and one commentator even asked for information about the members so that he could track them down and “crucify” them.

It was the same sort of fear and hate that brought the attacks on Kosovo 2.0’s magazine launch and LGBT organization Libertas in 2012, with rationalizations about the wishes of God and the innate qualities of being Albanian. We were called “Serbs who speak Albanian” (though I don’t see why it would be a problem if we were), and the members of Haveit were called degenerates, sinners, bitches, and whores. We are just as Albanian as anyone else born to Albanian parents. It is frightening to consider that these moral crusaders assume a hegemony over Albanian-ness, a patriarchal, theocratic kind of Albanianism. Albanian identity has room for difference, for a richness of people and views as well as for sex and pleasure, divorced from traditional morality and engaged in freely and joyfully. Traditional Albanian culture as defined by these men and women leaves no room for freedom or for joy, and that is why they are dangerous. That is why they endanger the very fiber of our hard-won independence.

Kosovo’s moral fascists inhabit a world where sex is bad, secret and spiteful, where women are only either the dirtiest of whores or pure virgin-wives. The existence of homosexuals is an affront to them, and they give themselves the right to call for their extermination. They are just as dangerous and hateful as the Serbians who wished for our destruction. If they were only to look to Albanian poetry and songs, they would find a complexity of feeling expressed by Albanians on sex, love and lust that does not fit within their narrow structures of right and wrong. They would find humanity and vulnerability instead of the caricatures of hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity that we foist on our historical figures today, and impose on our children.

Unfortunately, the worldview of our society’s moral fascists leaves no room for complexity in love and sexuality. The moral fascist has our roles defined for us, and any deviation merits condemnation. Moral fascists are created by circumstances, such as a lack of education and a lack of opportunities. Religion and nationality are good antidotes for feelings of impotence and powerlessness, and a moral crusade gives a rousing adrenaline rush. The moral fascist doesn’t need “facts.” For the rigidity and harshness of their views, they should be called what they are: hateful.

It is not reasonable to propose that there are a variety of things more “important” than individual freedom, such as corruption, poverty, northern Kosovo, etc. After the attack on Kosovo 2.0’s “Sex” launch, one political party stated that Kosovo has a “hierarchy of needs,” and sexual freedom ranks low on that hierarchy. The implications of a “hierarchy of needs,” in which some persons’ rights are more important than others, are worrying to say the least. Life in Kosovo doesn’t stop because of talks with Serbia. Human rights and freedom of expression cannot be put on hold while more “important” issues are dealt with. If my rights and freedoms fall low on a predetermined “hierarchy of needs,” how different is the Republic of Kosovo from the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija?

The war is over and another one has begun. Except this time the enemy is more insidious, more difficult to contain and eliminate. This is a war of values, and it will determine the shape that our country takes. If the lesson of history teaches us anything, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted. The freedoms that we have, the ones that we fought and waited for, can all be blown away like leaves in the wind unless we draw a line that cannot be crossed. I would like to raise my children in a Kosovo where they can be what they are and say what they believe without fear of intimidation and punishment by those who disagree with them. I hope you do, too.

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